NIFS understands that the MEGA EXPRESS FOUR of Corsica Ferries is being chartered by Irish Ferries for overhaul cover. The contract is said to be for two months.
The ferry is believed to be arriving in Dublin by the end of next week (potentially 11/12 February) and will, initially, at least, be operating Dublin – Holyhead. However, it is understood that the vessel will also see service on the Ireland – France route.
At first glance the vessel would appear to be a strange choice, having a limited vehicle capacity of just 1,400 lane metres. However, with traffic still much lower than usual due to COVID-19 and Brexit, it is likely that this freight space be sufficient for the IE-UK routes. As an overnight ferry with 905 berths, cabin capacity won’t be an issue to operate on the Dublin – Cherbourg route.
Some mystery has surrounded Irish Ferries’ refit plans this year. It is believed that originally the ULYSSES would overhaul in January. However, the fluid post-Brexit changes that seen the W.B. YEATS transferred to the Dublin – Cherbourg route have meant that this hasn’t happened. Market intelligence stated that Irish Ferries were scouring the charter market for potential cover tonnage but there was no sign of anything happening until recent days.
There had been some speculation that Irish Ferries might opt for a Ro-Ro ship as refit relief, as they did last year with STENA FORETELLER. However, it seems that with not much choice in the market at present that they have opted for a “cruise-ferry”, even though passenger demand remains exceptionally low at present.
At the time of writing, Irish Ferries passenger website is not currently accepting bookings beyond 15 February, suggesting that it is likely that this will be the start of the refit period. It is not clear which ships are due to be dry-docked beyond the ULYSSES. It is also unclear if and when the Pembroke Dock – Rosslare vessel ISLE OF INISHMORE will go to Poland for the scrubber installation delayed from 2020.
Since completing this article, Irish Ferries has updated their passenger booking engine to 31 March.
ULYSSES appears to be replaced by W.B. YEATS on Dublin – Holyhead 15 February to 4 March inclusive. The EPSILON is absent from the timetable in this period, suggesting she is dedicated to the Ireland – France route, which is not bookable to passengers after 14 February. The EPSILON’s normal Holyhead sailings are not available for passenger bookings, suggesting that the MEGA EXPRESS FOUR will operate in this slot. It would be entirely likely that this vessel will sail in a “driver only” role, even though there is virtually no passenger market anyhow at present.
EPSILON is then found covering for the ISLE OF INISHMORE from 16 March to the end of the available booking period on 31 March. Presumably either the EPSILON or W.B. YEATS is at refit between the ULYSSES arriving back on 5 March until the EPSILON covers at Rosslare from 16 March.
The ferry is currently at Savona, where she arrived from Genoa on 3 February, Generally, MEGA EXPRESS FOUR is used on services from Toulon and Nice on the French Mainland to L’Île-Rousse, Ajaccio and Bastia on Corsica. The Genoese-registered ferry is expected to depart for Ireland in the next few days.
More details on NIFS when more information becomes available.
MEGA EXPRESS FOUR Fast Facts
|IMO number: 9086590||Built by: Schichau Seebeckwerft, Bremerhaven, Germany,|
|Also known as: SPIRIT OF TASMANIA III, SUPERFAST II||As-built sister-ships: SKANIA|
|Usual route: Toulon/Nice - L'Île-Rousse / Ajaccio / Bastia||Current operator: Corsica Ferries|
|Passenger capacity: 1965||Vehicle capacity: 1400 lane metres|
The MEGA EXPRESS FOUR was built for Superfast Ferries as SUPERFAST II, entering service on the company’s Patras routes in Summer 1995. She was sold to TT-Line of Tasmania in 2003, becoming SPIRIT OF TASMANIA III for a new Sydney – Devonport route. This service was not success, being terminated in August 2006 and the SPIRIT OF TASMANIA III was sold to Corsica Ferries.
As MEGA EXPRESS FOUR, Corsica Ferries, rebuilt the vessel in Greece during early 2007 to increase passenger capacity.